Eight Richland kids are struggling with a new reality after their mother’s sudden and unexpected death.
Evelyn M. Rethford, 32, died June 7 at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.
Her oldest daughter reportedly was holding her mother’s hand and telling her everything would be OK before nurses rushed in and tried to save Rethford, who had gone into cardiac arrest.
The children range in age from 15 years to just 6 months old. Six of them are enrolled in Richland schools, including Lewis & Clark Elementary, Carmichael Middle and Richland High.
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The two oldest already were being raised by their elderly maternal grandparents. Rethford was very young when she had them and wasn’t equipped to care for them after her first marriage dissolved, said family friend Bambi Pescasio.
In moments like this, there’s nothing we can do to take away (the kids’) pain. The first thing we do is (ask), how can we help them get through this? Nothing will bring her back.
Bambi Pescasio, family friend
The four middle kids now have joined their older siblings, and the two little ones are in the custody of their paternal grandparents, she said.
Rethford also was trying to get custody of the two youngest when she fell ill, a relative said.
Pescasio was introduced to the family when her high school-aged son became good friends with the oldest. The kids obviously are shook up about their mother’s death, she said.
“In moments like this, there’s nothing we can do to take away their pain. The first thing we do is (ask), how can we help them get through this?” Pescasio said. “Nothing will bring her back.”
She started a GoFundMe page to help ease the family’s financial burden, which includes additional mouths to feed and growing bodies to clothe.
Initially she was asking for $25,000, but dropped it to $2,500 at the request of Rethford’s mother just to cover basic funeral expenses. She said anything raised above the goal still will go to the late mother’s family.
As of Friday evening, 41 people had donated a total of $2,510.
“I believe that as a community we can impact our future by lifting up those around us in their time of need,” Pescasio wrote on the fund-raising site. “These young souls are your future neighbors, your children’s future friends, peers, coworkers and leaders.”
“They are all of our concern,” she added. “Let’s show them how important they are and let them know that they are loved and will never be alone.”
Rethford was born in Saudi Arabia and had lived in the Tri-City area for 30 years. She was a homemaker.
Her obituary said Rethford was “a failure to thrive baby at birth and her life expectancy was only one day.”
She had many health complications over her young life, the obituary said, including with her last pregnancy.
Those children are the kindest, sweetest, politest, most well-behaved children that I’ve ever met. She was a beautiful mother who was radiantly in love with her children.
Bambi Pescasio, family friend
Then, weeks before her death, she was in and out of the hospital because she wasn’t feeling well, and was told to check in with her doctor, Pescasio said. Physicians could not figure out what was wrong.
When Rethford became too lethargic to even get off the couch, her mother called for an ambulance and she went back to Kadlec.
Pescasio said the young mother was found to have decreased liver and kidney function, and on June 7 had just returned to her room from having a test done when she suddenly stopped breathing.
Rethford’s death was ruled renal failure, but doctors don’t know what caused it, she said.
After Pescasio created the GoFund Me page, she received some skepticism and negative comments, including the size of the family, she said.
Rethford may have had children with three different men, “but those children are the kindest, sweetest, politest, most well-behaved children that I’ve ever met,” she said. “She was a beautiful mother who was radiantly in love with her children.”
The online criticism has been upsetting to Rethford’s oldest daughter, who’s been checking the site daily because “she’s trying desperately to feel closer to her mom,” Pescasio said.
“I just think at times like this, with so much sadness in the world, if we can come together as a community and help someone out,” Pescasio said. “If we act like it’s not our problem, then what are we doing to these kids.”